In Pakistan, authorities recently arrested three Muslims on charges of forcible conversion to Islam. Boota Masih, a Christian, said a man “bluntly asked me to convert to Islam,” issued threats, and pistol-whipped him and his nephews when they refused, the Morning Star News reported Oct. 24. The next day, attackers fired guns at Masih’s house. Masih and his family were not home.
“I thanked God that none of us were present in the house when all of this happened, or else the loss would have been irreplaceable,” Masih told Morning Star News.
Forced conversion isn’t a new Islamic practice, but “a phenomenon that has a long history with ample precedents,” according to an article by Middle East and Islam expert Raymond Ibrahim. He’s found an instance of forced conversion from the year 1522.
Ibrahim thinks the world needs to be made aware of the problem. “Left undisclosed, Muslims will have no incentive to address it,” Ibrahim wrote. “But if it becomes better exposed in the West, and if Muslim governments and peoples become embarrassed by it, perhaps they'll begin respecting minority rights a little more.”
Christians and non-Muslims from Nigeria, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan, have reported recent instances of forced conversions to Islam. Muslim gangs are forcibly converting other inmates in Britain’s jails, according to The Independent.
In Syria, Youssef Naame and his wife Norma, an elderly Christian couple from Maaloula, Syria, said Islamist extremists stormed their village in early October chanting, “God is Great!”
“The jihadis shouted: Convert to Islam, or you will be crucified like Jesus,” Naame said.
Christian refugees from Syria said the jihadis gave them four options: renounce Christianity and convert, pay tribute known as a jizya tax in order to keep their lives, be killed, or flee, according to the Mark Durie, an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum. He noted that “the scenario reported by Syrian refugees is a re-enactment of the historic fate of Christians across the Middle East.”
The consequences of refusal are severe.
“It can be as sudden as a bullet to the head. Or a machete,” said Todd Nettleton, director of media development for Voice of the Martyrs.
Morning Star News also reported in September that Muslims killed two Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya when they wouldn’t convert.
Nettleton said in some cases Muslims attempt to sell conversion by offering gifts of a wife, job, or house in exchange. He thinks it is common to try those methods first before threatening violence. He said Voice of the Martyrs encourages Christians to stand firm, even if it costs their life.
In some cases, kidnapping and trafficking precedes forced conversion, such as a case in Bangladesh, where hundreds of Christian tribal children were abducted and sold to Islamic schools, according to Asia News. Raymond Uzoechina, a Nigerian pastor, said something similar happened to his daughter, Charity, and many other Christian girls. A Muslim leader took Charity and forced her to convert with the support of a Sharia court, Morning Star News reported in July.